Wall Finish Ideas

Wall decorating has moved passed a simple coat of paint or a sheet of wallpaper in the past decades. Now you can turn them into anything from super smooth and glossy surfaces to textured wonderlands.

But, what should you go for when you want to make an impact? Can you do it yourself, or should you call in a professional? Let’s try and figure it out.

How do you decorate a large blank wall?

In so many different ways, or maybe none at all if that is more your vibe.

The best place to start is to first take stock of everything that is in the vicinity of the wall – furniture, paintings, doors, windows, etc. That will inform you if you should g crazy with color and texture, or you should keep it tame. Should you cover the whole surface, or just selected areas.

Once you have the answer to those questions, then comes the hard part. You have so many options on the market these days that it can become a bit frustrating at times.

If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, here’s a little tip. Contrast always works, be it in color or texture. And if things are already very busy, stick to neutrals or repeat a dominant shade.


What do you really want to achieve?

Are you trying to follow a trend? Or are you trying to just change things up? Maybe you’re putting your place on the market and want to raise the value of the property?

If you’re following a trend, you may not want anything too permanent, and if you are selling the place, you may not want to do anything too crazy to make your home unsellable.

Make sure to understand your wants and needs, as well to figure out how to communicate them to people who understand this type of work (ie contractors and salespeople).

Knowing who you are and what you want is important

The images we see online may be striking, but you don’t live on the internet. Your home is supposed to be a place of comfort, peace, and happiness, and they might not happen in a room that makes you feel suffocated or distracted.

For a second, forget about the exact thing that you want to do to that wall. Sit down and think about your space overall and how do you want to feel in it. Think about its purpose, and think about all the reasons that you want to change it.

We are not living in the Stone Age where your only options are a painted and an unpainted cave. There is a solution to every idea. So concentrate on yourself and your feelings first, then see what the world has to offer.

What can I “realistically” do myself

In short, anything that you can pick up supplies from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Lowe’s and Home Depot are already in another league.

If it’s just a layer of paint, you’ll be fine as long as you’re not too hopelessly clumsy. Wallpaper and decals can be a bit more challenging and might work better as a group project.

There are also a few texturizing techniques that could be simple enough but do not attempt anything without practicing first.


Ideas for complete beginners

Chalkboard wall

Very popular amongst the people with kids for obvious practical reasons. But it also allows adults to release their creativity while providing an ultra-matt surface. And no, it doesn’t have to be black.

Gloss wall finish

Or satin paint. Comes in clear and colored versions. Pretty much just like your classic wall paint, but with a high shine. Absolutely gorgeous when you like your interior but you just want to give it a bit of a facelift.

Velvet wallpaper

Been around for a while but mostly in classic Victorian patterns and colors. This new generation tends to be more abstract and better at catching the light. Oh, and it feels like heaven to the touch.

Texture wallpaper

Believe it or not, these are a lot easier to apply in comparison to the standard kind. The paper is just thick enough to make it easier to handle even if you are on your own. And they now come in options that are supposed to mimic other classic wall finishes.

Decorative panels

Paper, wood, plastic, plaster,… Applied with an adhesive or nailed in. There are so many options these days, and it only matters what your skill amount to and what catches your eye.


Not only for kids’ and teenagers’ rooms anymore. They are great either as a finishing touch to a new paint job or to spruce up a plain white wall.


Knowing when to call a professional

It’s the same case as knowing when to see a mechanic instead of messing under the hood yourself or booking an appointment at a salon instead of going your own hair.

When a project requires too many tools and/or materials you’ve never used before, it’s time to throw in the towel and pick up the proverbial phonebook. No, you will never get to use that thingamajig again, and yes, that “DIY hack” video is made only for clicks, not to actually help you.

Let’s keep it simple – if you can’t more or less understand what you should be doing even before you go deep into research mode, this is not a job for you.

Working on a realistic budget

A price tag for all wall finishes can be anywhere on that zero to bankruptcy scale. It all depends on what you want to achieve and how capable are you of doing it on your own. On one side you have the chalkboard or the glossy finish, and they can cost you as little as whatever it is you need to pay for a bucket of paint and a roller.

Wallpapers vary in price, but in the end, you just need them, an adhesive, and possibly an extra set of hands. However, with the very next step, we are already sliding into a territory where we may have to hire a contractor. They make it look easy, but it takes some serious skill to create some of those textures.

The panels and decals can be anywhere on the same pricing scale since you may be able to work with something off the rack, or it will have to be custom made and/or cut. So, I’m sorry to say, but the most ambitious projects are reserved only for those with the deepest pockets.

How to calculate what your budget can and should be

When finance experts talk about expenditures like non-essential home improvements, they usually recommend sticking to a budget you can save up within one year. But go an extra step and imagine that something happens to your home (a fire, flood, or a particularly “lively” party) – how much would it hurt if you thought about all the money you’ve just spent on this project?

The latter is a true indicator of how much you want to spend, but remember that almost all construction work almost all the time goes over budget. For a small-ish task like this one, you should plan for the final cost to be about 10% above the initial quote.


Decorating a small space

“You shouldn’t do XYZ in a small space,” you’ve probably heard something like this before, right?

Guess what, you can paint a small apartment completely black, and you don’t have to have all walls covered in mirrors to create the illusion of more space. It’s actually all about proportion, and nothing but a proportion.

Just as you should not put a lot of chunky and oversized furniture into a small space, don’t go for large patterns and textures for the walls. Do whatever you want with color and techniques as well, just always keep in mind that you are doing it in a smaller space.

And if you see something in a big space that you really, really want to replicate in your tiny living room, just make it a bit smaller. Even 10% or up to a 25% scale down of the original design can have a massive effect on how it fits in your home.

Decorating a large space

A large space does not necessarily mean more options. Proportion is still the key and you must pay attention to how the wall decoration relates to the size of said wall, as well as other room furnishings.

But one thing a large wall allows you to do is to become bolder with the elements. Let’s say you are in the mood for floral wallpaper. Now, something dainty may look charming on a smaller wall, but in a large room, it can easily become tacky and/or old fashioned. Luckily for you, these days you can find blooms that are big enough to swallow you whole.

And these types of wallpapers don’t require a lot of additional decorations since they are already loud enough. Even if you chuck into the room a couple of pieces of flat-pack furniture, it will still be impactful.


Using wall finishes to hide imperfections

Textured walls are a wonky wall solution everywhere around the world since they can cover up a multitude of sins and imperfections. A couple of elastic bands on a paint roller can create so many different effects that will hide anything from closed sockets to even crooked bricks.

The cheapest way to address a damaged wall is to create some form of texture that will blend in and camouflage the damage. This technique is particularly useful in case of patch-up jobs – closing holes after removing sockets or hanging nails, or concealing a repaired crack.

Textured walls are also easy to blend into your existing decor since they can stay the same color as the rest of the room. And depending on the type of imperfection you are trying to hide, you can only apply the effect to a portion of it creating yet another interesting look.

Using wall finishes to celebrate imperfections

There is beauty in imperfection, or so the entire philosophy of Wabi-Sabi says. The aged, rustic, or worn-in look has also become a huge part of the interior decor market. Sure, you can pick up an oxidated iron tray for your table centerpiece or chipped wood bucket for umbrella storage. But if you want to really take it to the next level, make sure that your walls look like the repairs are at least half a century overdue.

The first benefit of this approach is the visual impact. This is especially when contrasted with modern, minimalistic, possibly pure white furniture. And second? It’s super cheap. If the walls look bad, just concentrate on structural issues and leave everything be.

Your walls are in good condition? No problem. Since the Wabi Sabi has been on the rise in the West for the past decade or so, quite a few contractors learned how to “mess up” your walls.



A decorative wall finish in a house with children and pets

There is no reason not to have a decorative wall in a house with small children or pets, but you will have to be mindful of a couple of things.

First, you have to know that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a toddler with a crayon will write on a wall at some point. It’s not the end of the world, but if you made a wrong choice of materials, it may be the end of your hopes to be featured in an interior design magazine.

In the case of small children in the house, make sure to pick a finish that is either easy to wash or repair. And always buy an extra tub of paint for future touch-ups. Make it water-based since it will be fairly easy to resurrect even after a couple of years sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Dogs should be fine, but watch out for cats and birds if you are thinking about a 3D design. Both have claws, and both will sink them into the wall some point – cats trying to climb it, and birds just sitting there.

Ideas for renters

For most rental properties, lack of permanence is the keyword. This means nothing that will leave a mark if you need to take it down (not to mention that you have to be able to take it down anyway) and no dark colors. Revisit the ideas for beginners for this one since most of those things will work in your case as well.

But if your landlord is a decent person and your idea is just good enough, you can try and make a case for it. Such a prominent decorative feature can increase the value of the property (as long as it’s done right, of course), so they might be on board. Especially if the money for the improvement is coming out of your pocket.

Just remember to have a paper trail. You both need to sign a written agreement so this doesn’t cost you your deposit and then some when the landlord “forgets” they gave you permission for the work.

Striking a balance between a traditional and modern look

It’s a lot easier and way more affordable to build a modern foundation and add traditional accents than going the other way around. To demonstrate – if you had a room that is furnished with Queen Anne pieces, a smooth stainless steel sculpture would stand out like a sore thumb.

On the other hand, if you have a chair that was passed on from your great great grandmother, it can look stunning when framed properly, no matter how streamlined the rest of the furniture is.

But that’s assuming that we’re keeping all the elements as they are. Just a simple change (ie, in the color scheme) can propel any room into the 21st century.

But even if you keep everything else the same, making a dramatic change in something that usually stays more or less the same, changes the look and feel of any setting. In this case, the newest wall finish technique breathes new life into a room that stayed the same for years.


Matching a decorative wall and furniture

The safest bet is to stick to minimalistic furniture, especially if you want the wall to be the focal point of the room. But if you prefer your place to look busy, go for the mismatched or the clashing look if that’s what makes you happy.

The only thing you must pay attention to is the size and shape of the pieces, and to be more precise, will they hide a good portion of the design. No point in doing all that work if it’s going to be covered by a large cabinet, right?

Consider also including said furniture into the overall wall design and not treating it as a separate entity. For example, painting the tables or using sofa covers, or even applying the exact 3D elements to the furniture as well.

Living with the results

Now, before you start looking for a contractor, take a step back, and acknowledge that a decorative wall is a somewhat permanent thing. As in, it will take another call to a contractor to remodel it if you change your mind.

Get ready to adjust all the other decor to it – especially the temporary seasonal stuff like Halloween decorations or a Christmas tree. And it’s not just about the look – you may not be able to arrange your lights and garlands as you did before.

And in the end, you will have to spend at least some time in that room, so you have to be 100% sure that you don’t mind looking at a big red splash, neon green cherubs, embedded cubic zirconia, or whatever else you managed to come up with. It’s not the same thing seeing those things at someone else’s place and thinking they look cool, as it is having to look at it day in and out in your home.

So, before you pick up the phone, ask yourself if the vision in your head is something you want to look at 24/7. Because it’s going to cost you a lot to figure it out that it isn’t the hard way.

Cleaning and other maintenance

If you are a smoker or live in an area with a lot of traffic (aka, downtown or you just have a lot of people passing through your house), you may want to pick a paint that you can wash. Unless you have it in your budget to have someone come in and perk up the wall once a year, or maybe even remodel it completely, you may need to give it a good clean at least once a month.

A similar thing goes for texture – dust settles in those little crevices so make sure to make life easier form the beginning and pick something you can handle. When it comes to dusting, a vacuum equipped with the brush attachment should do the trick, but once in a while, take a dry microfiber cloth and do some detailing.

Always keep some of the paint as well. If it’s not water-based, portion it out in smaller containers so the whole thing doesn’t dry up as easily. And if your wall features any glued-on elements, keep a tube of adhesive as well for quick repairs.

Finally, schedule someone to take a look at it at least once a year. This may sound like too much, but if you’re in a new house that is still “settling” or have panels, tiles, or other elements, it’s better to diagnose a possible problem before cracks appear on things star falling on your head.

Is it better for you to go to a dentist for checkups instead of waiting for a tooth to fall out? Point made.

Final thoughts

As said, it’s a lot bigger wall decorating world out there these days, and it can get a bit frustrating trying to navigate all the styles, materials, and options. But, as long as you stay true to yourself and your wants and needs, you will be able to find your way.

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